Life with Liz: A fortress for a snow day
Last week’s cold snap and school cancellations had the kids climbing the walls. While everyone enjoyed the first lazy day, and maybe even part of the second day, by lunch time, we were all ready to get back to civilization. Unfortunately, the cold kept us from venturing out. I’d also exhausted the chores that I wanted accomplished and no one wanted to take another nap or watch another movie. Since tempers were flaring, board games were a definite no. Even baking a few batches of brownies and cookies only kept them occupied for what seemed like a few minutes, and then they were even more ramped up on sugar.
Complicating matters was the fact that I was trying to work in peace and quiet and was getting agitated by the constant interruptions and frequent outbursts. Normally, they would have been turned out of the house to tussle and carry on on the other side of a locked door, but the amount of energy required to bundle up to go outside was not proportionate to how much time they could actually spend outside, so inside they stayed.
My next step was to lock myself in a room with my laptop and hope that they didn’t trash the house, or each other, while I was working. Determined to ignore the thumping, banging and occasional screeching that was still coming from the living room, I plugged away. It wasn’t long until I realized that the house had gone quiet. Although it’s been years since I really worried about the “dangerous quiet,” some habits are hard to break and I immediately expected the worst. I was also afraid that if I ventured out to inspect, I’d risk upsetting whatever delicate balance they might have achieved.
Several hours later, I emerged to discover that my kids had turned the entire living room into what might have been the largest blanket fort ever constructed. What had started as a someone building a wall to keep the other two out turned into two kids building walls to keep the other one out, and finally all three of them had built their own fortresses. Then, however, alliances started to form. Secret passage ways were constructed, sliding doors were created out of couch cushions. The dress-up box was raided for plastic swords to create booby traps, and sorcerer’s staffs from many Halloweens ago were lashed together to create free-standing tent supports.
Doll blankets were used to create curtains. Fuzzy fleecy blankets were used to make wall-to-wall, or blanket-to-blanket, carpeting. The ottoman was cleverly employed to create a loft and add an upstairs to the blanket fort. Every flashlight and head lamp in the house disappeared into the fort. Small tables, bean bag chairs, and even the small plastic lawn chairs that have long been relegated to use by E’s dolls were also trucked into the fort. Eventually, the heavy winter sleeping bags were dragged out. Apparently, the walls were too thin and the adults outside the fort were annoying the residents with all their noise.
That night, the three fort residents asked to be allowed to sleep in the fort. Since school was already canceled the next day, I really didn’t care how poorly they slept, and I was sure that fighting would resume soon, and they would all be running for their beds before long. I was wrong. The next morning, they were up and at rebuilding and modifying and expanding the fort before I was even out of bed.
This isn’t the first time the kids have constructed their own sleeping arrangements. Last year, after our visit to Plymouth Plantation and the Wampanoag village, they used the family collection of tanned deer and bear skins to create cozy little sleeping nooks for themselves. This is the first time, though, that it stretched from one corner of the living room to the other.
A is closing in on 6 feet. Constructing a fort that can contain him comfortably is pretty impressive. While there were occasional skirmishes over the direction the fort should expand in or what purpose each “room” should have, for the most part, fort expansion kept all three kids busy for the rest of the day and even though they finally headed back to school at the end of the week, they retreated to the fort immediately upon arriving back home. Muffled shouts from behind the blankets assured me that they were completing their homework and reading assignments.
When we finally insisted that the fort come down, mainly so that the adults could see the TV and watch the Super Bowl from the couch, it was met with grumbling, but there was also much discussion of how they would build the fort better next time. I was quite surprised that my kids, who are in that phase where they are just about too cool for any sort of family activity at all, could be so engrossed in something as childish as a blanket fort, even one with all the bells and whistles.
But then, I realized that unlike most of the other forts they’ve built in the past, I wasn’t invited in to this one. Although they kept me apprised of all developments, they didn’t ask me “how to” do anything, and even though we were all cooped up inside the same house, they found a way to assert their independence. Although I had been the one trying to block them out, I ended up being the one left out in the cold. Just one more reminder of how quickly they’re growing up.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.